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Posts Tagged ‘Parents’

So: after almost twenty months, more Estate Agents than I ever hope to encounter again in the rest of my life, an architect, a team of builders and a deep immersion in the auction houses of London, I am moving into my new house this weekend.

The children have already seen it and given it their unconditional approval, which is heartening, as I chose it largely with them in mind – as you would, of course. When I saw it, I wasn’t completely convinced – in fact, I was quite anti: but the endorsements of Sister, Parents, Old Friend at Work and Best Friend all brought me round and now I am enamoured with it. This is probably due, in no small part, to the fact that it no longer has mahogany floorboards, a black quartz kitchen floor and blue and white tiles in the bathrooms (one of the reasons I have spent so long not living in a house that I have owned for six months is that I decided to bite the bullet, do ALL the work – and spend ALL the money, rather than do it in drips and drabs, which would be disruptive – and I think everyone’s had enough disruption to be getting on with…), and is now exactly as I would want it.

It’s also the first time that I’ve lived in a house of this style: very modern and open-plan, rather than old and self-contained rooms. Again, I am now delighted with this way of living, and it’s also quite therapeutic to be living a new life in a new kind of space, rather than in a version of the houses that I shared with Ex Wife.

So: good times ahead. The children are excited, and I’m excited. If I can put up with the navy blue front door until the Spring, when I shall re-paint it (and there’s more than enough woodwork to be painting in the meantime), then all shall be rosy in the garden. Assuming some cunt hasn’t planted bamboo in there…

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Well: I feel rather stupid.

I thought I was off to the National Theatre to see “Mother Courage and Her Children” starring Fiona Shaw (a production that, in spite of its delayed Press Night and decidedly mixed reviews, I am assured by Me As A Protestant has rekindled a love for Brecht in him – so that’s pretty high praise…), and it turned out that I was going to see David Hare’s (equally schizophrenically reviewed) “The Power of Yes”.

Once I’d actually LOOKED at the tickets, and realised that I wasn’t just going to see a different play, I was also going to see this with my parents, rather than alone (Miss Shaw being someone whom divides opinion, but about whom, like Shakespeare, Steiner, Titian, Matisse and a few others, I am not prepared to hear negative opinions – so I tend to worship at that altar  alone), I started to get very excited. I am absolutely in Hare’s camp. I think his work is serious (which is not to say that it can’t be, simultaneously, incredibly funny), heart-felt, ambitious and extremely accomplished. Like everyone else, he has his ups and downs: but I think a man who has given us “Plenty”, “Racing Demon”, “The Absence of War”, “Murmuring Judges”, “Skylight”, “Stuff Happens” and – my favourite of them all – “Amy’s View”, has got to be counted amongst the gods of contemporary playwrights.

So, I was excited, and after just over two hours (for it runs without an interval), I wasn’t sure. It is a very dense play, crammed with facts, figures, historical events – and even mathematical formulae. It has the great seriousness of purpose that I so like in his work (and how could an analysis of the current financial crisis fail to?) – and it is an absolute endorsement of theatre as THE art form to encourage reflection, debate, understanding and dialogue about our immediate surroundings.

And yet, it did, at times, feel like a draft, not a play. The sub-title is “A Dramatist Attempts To Make Sense of the Financial Crisis” – and therein lies some of the problem. The play is, a verbatim record of Hare’s characteristically pains-taking research and meetings with the people directly involved in, and writing about, the crisis: real people, real conversations, real exchanges. The cast of characters (and to some extent, the cast itself) is huge – and this has necessitated (in Hare’s opinion, at least) the need to precede every appearance made by any character with a Choric figure announcing his or her name, role and involvement in the crisis. This slows the pace considerably, and I wonder how necessary it was, either at all (after all, the endless Dramatis Personae in Shakespearean history plays don’t get the equivalent of a personal introduction every time they open their mouths…), or through some other medium (the set is magnificent and consists almost entirely of projections: there would have been one alternative, at least…). We keep returning to the figure of Hare himself being asked by a kindly, female trader who has been roped into briefing him if he is “alright” and if he is “keeping up” – and it’s hard not to see that as a quick reminder to the audience that this is what they are being expected to do. I felt at some points in the evening that what this should really be is an extended essay in one of the few periodicals that still publishes these things: “The New Yorker” or (oddly) “Vanity Fair” where Hitchens has been so brilliantly contrary – but that is to dispute my credit to Hare for exploiting theatre as a medium so brilliantly, so it becomes self-defeating.

In a very different play, by a very different dramatist, Alan Bennett gets round the issue of having himself on stage (and tackles this issue of “trying to understand how I feel about something”) through the device of two “Alan Bennett’s” in “The Lady in the Van” – and it works very well indeed (although the comic tenor of that play is a little more forgiving to this sort of conceit than Hare’s aggressively “real” piece would be…

I think what stirred me into thinking “This is a draft” is that there is a magnificent, and all too brief scene when Hare is matched with a female journalist who reported on the crisis and who (it transpires) used to count amongst her friends a number of the bankers involved, or those very like them. Maybe it’s Hare’s undoubted flair for writing female characters, maybe it’s because “writer to writer” something comes alive in the language, but this is the scene that sets fire to the whole night and made me wish for more of the same. In response to Hare’s bewildered (and utterly credible) cry of “Why has not one banker apologised for this? How can they be so arrogant?”, she asks him “And when critics attack your work, do you think they’re right? Do you revise your opinion, do you change what you wrote, or what you will write?” and the play moves into a new dimension.

My parents, I should say, were unreserved in their admiration for the piece: intention and execution, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone, but perhaps in the way that one might recommend “All’s Well That Ends Well” (which I directed my own broken-backed production of when at University…) or “Measure for Measure” to someone: fascinating, but apt to leave one thinking about what the structure is and might be, as much as simply enjoying what is there in front of one.

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Sunday, 27th January 2008

I was disinherited a couple of weeks ago.

The emotional side of it was obviously rather upsetting – so upsetting in fact that I couldn’t write about it here. And then there were the financial implications: I wasn’t going to get anything in the will (Father has already said that the bulk of their wealth is going to build schools in Glasgow – which I think is absolutely the right thing to do).

This is something of a mixed blessing. This means that the house (which my parents may, or may not be able to sell) will not become a mill-stone around my neck, as it has around theirs – but it also means that I won’t be in line for any of Dad’s rather nice suits.

Anyway: I have been reinherited again. So the bills, moaning tithe-holders and National Trust are mine – all mine. Fuck it.

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Saturday, 23rd February 2008

I haven’t been to South Africa in about 20 years (my parents, by way of contrast, go every February and March to escape the cold – and I can see why).

This is the view from my balcony – and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better one: the mountains continue around three sides of the hotel, with vineyards on their slopes and the clearest, most beautiful blue sky I have ever seen.

Amidst all this beauty, I sat inside conference rooms for three days, hearing about our last year on The Client. Best of all, The Client turned up to give us his view: and as Real Leader said, it’s one thing hearing it from internal sources who heard it from him – it’s quite another to hear it direct. He called us their biggest, and their best, agency: the only one whose actions and output could impact their (growing) share price, and for the first time in a fifteen year career, I felt really, really proud of what I do.

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Saturday, 22nd March 2008

Good Friday saw my parents, Father-in-Law and Old Friend in TV join us for lunch – which was really enjoyable, the essential fish baked beautifully by Wife with wine and fennel and marjoram, and followed by a Pavlova with raspberries. The children were in a state of heightened excitement as Eldest Son’s Godmother and Daughter’s Godmother had also come over to deliver their Easter presents, and Old Friend in TV (another of Eldest Son’s Godmothers) had conducted an Easter Egg hunt in the garden (the prizes being Lindt bunnies with bells around their necks).

As a result, when I woke up this morning, not only had Wife risen and gone downstairs, the children were also awake (and not coming into the bedroom to impart urgent information about their lavatorial needs or the apparent fissures in the justice system that governs the distribution of toys) and were sitting around the dining table, cutting up white and yellow fake fur to make Easter bunnies, chicks and eggs that were destined to become slathered with glue and hoisted onto cards. 

Stumbling on this scene, it might perhaps be understood why I was convinced that I had entered a suspended place between “The Truman Show”, a Norman Rockwell painting and a Kellogg’s commercial…

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